Education Reform, Malloy, Obama, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing Education Reform, Malloy, Obama, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing
Sarah Darer Littman, a fellow public education advocate, blogger and regular commentator here at Wait,What? is also an award-winning author of books for young people.
Last week she and a number of other leading authors and illustrators wrote a powerful letter to President Obama about the inappropriate use of standardized testing and the failings of the corporate education reform movement.
In a commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post and Stamford Advocate, Sarah Darer Littman explains why she and the authors took this important step;
“I am proud to have been a signatory to a letter sent to President Obama last week, along with over 120 authors and illustrators of books for children — including luminaries of the field such as Maya Angelou, Judy Blume and Jane Yolen.
We signed on to the letter because we know that lighting the fire of literacy is critical to our nation’s future, and we’re deeply concerned that current educational policy is dousing that fire. When one receives letters from young people telling them how reading your book has changed their life, it creates a special responsibility to advocate for change.
As you ponder who to vote for in your local Board of Education elections, please consider carefully each candidate’s position on excessive standardized testing.
Party label is no indication of position, alas — over-testing insanity might have started under a Republican administration with No Child Left Behind, but rather than correcting the problem, the Obama administration’s policies have reinforced it. Here in Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy even went so far as to state that he’d “settle for teaching to the test” as long as it meant raising test scores.
In many of the schools in Connecticut that need them the most, we don’t have full-time librarians, or libraries filled with books that appeal to young people. Yet we’re spending a fortune on consultants, and on technology to implement what — more testing. Author Neil Gaiman summed it up in a recent lecture, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”:
“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”
Test scores don’t matter as much as raising a nation of life-long readers — because reading fiction is a key to imagination and creativity. It is both a mirror, where we can see that we are not alone in our experiences, and a window, where we can learn to empathize with the experiences of others whose lives might be very different from our own.
A friend of mine in New York state called me, upset, after receiving the results of the tests this fall. Her son’s reading scores weren’t what she’d expected, and she wondered if she should worry. I know her son well — he loves reading and we have lively discussions about the latest book. I sent her links to numerous articles about the flawed Pearson ELA tests and told her that there was nothing the matter with her son — that he’s a bright kid who loves reading and that it borders on criminal that these tests would even create a doubt in her mind about the truth of this.
Please consider this carefully when voting for Board of Education. Vote for literacy, not test score-driven “readicide.”
You can read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-vote-for-literacy-not-testing-4933218.php.
You can read the author’s letter to Obama and additional background on Valerie Strauss’ blog at the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/22/top-authors-including-maya-angelou-urge-obama-to-curb-standardized-testing/
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Sarah Darer Littman Achievement First Inc., Charter Schools, Sarah Darer Littman
Connecticut is quickly getting the message.
As far as the education reform industry is concerned, there are two standards of Accountability. There is one standard for teachers and a very different, much lower standard of accountability for the professional education reformers and their corporate entities.
Call it yet another example of the Great American Corporate Accountability System, otherwise known as laws and rules are only for the rank and file, not for the elite.
Sarah Darer Littman has yet another “must read” piece that appeared in this past weekend’s CT Newsjunkie entitled, Is Accountability Only For Teachers?
In it she observes;
“Accountability. It’s the No. 1 buzzword of corporate education reform. Teachers must be held can countable based on their students’ performance on standardized tests, even though the method is deeply flawed.
Students must also be held accountable. Poverty is no excuse. Who cares if you’ve experienced early childhood trauma, if your parents aren’t native English speakers, or if you have a learning disability. No excuses, no compassion. Toe the line, Bucko.
As Achievement First Hartford Academy stated in its 2007 charter application: “Excuses will not be tolerated. Mediocrity will not be good enough.”
Yet when it comes to the education reformers themselves there is little or no accountability and there are plenty of excuses — even to measures they have set for themselves. Take the aforementioned Achievement First Academy Hartford, which just had its charter renewed for three years in a shameful act of cronyism by the state Board of Education.
Here are some of the goals Achievement First Hartford set in its 2007 charter application:
-p.12 - “The AF Hartford approach to student behavior will be overwhelmingly positive. While there will be clear, strict consequences for poor behavior at AF Hartford, research finds that positive recognition of good behavior is more likely to fundamentally improve student behavior.”
-p.41 - Special Needs Populations: “All students with disabilities attending AF Hartford will be accorded a free, appropriate and public education. Disability will not be used as a criterion for non-eligibility for admissions or enrollment . . . AF will comply with all regulatory special education requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Likewise, AF Hartford will fully comply with additional regulations and policies of the State of Connecticut.”
Under “Charter Self-Evaluation and Accountability,” Achievement First Hartford listed the following:
-p.65 - Suspensions: “We will have an average of 5 or fewer suspensions for the months of January to June (or a total of 30 or fewer suspensions during this six month period).
-p.66 - Student Retention: “Student attrition will be less than 5 percent (other than students moving out of the district) during our first year and less than 3 percent in each successive year.
-p.68 - Staff Turnover: “There will be low rates of administrative and teacher turnover. Our targets for annual teacher turnover will be less than 25% in the first two years and less than 15 percent after that.”
Yet how did Achievement First Hartford measure up? We know their “positive recognition of good behavior” methods resulted inthe highest number of suspensions of any school in the state, with 32.5 percent of elementary school students and 49.4 percent of middle school students having at least one in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, or expulsion.
Clearly their model — and their leadership across the board — is flawed, because in the elementary school category, the top four slots in the suspension leaderboard were held by Achievement First schools: Hartford Academy, 32.5 percent; Elm City College Prep, 26 percent; Bridgeport Achievement First, 20 percent; and Amistad Academy, 13.8 percent.
In the middle school category, Achievement First dominates again, with three of the top four slots: AF Hartford Academy, 49.4 percent; Bridgeport Achievement First, 43.7 percent; and Amistad Academy, 41.9 percent.
High school? Achievement First had two schools in the top six, with Elm City Prep ranked second at 40 percent and Bridgeport Achievement First sixth at 35.9 percent.
The recent voluntary resolution agreement of a civil rights complaint filed on the behalf of six AF Hartford students by Greater Hartford Legal Aid is proof-positive that AF failed their special needs students.”
Everyone tracking the education reform corporate movement should take the time to read this informative and disturbing piece.
By understanding the real “achievements” of organizations like Achievement First, Inc. readers will have a much better understanding of the notion that the best way to describe these education reforms is to start by saying…”don’t look at the man behind the curtain.”
You can find Sarah Darer Littman’s full commentary piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/sboe_is_accountability_is_only_for_teachers/
Arne Duncan, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor Arne Duncan, Malloy, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor
Last week, the Secretary of Education for the United States of America, Arne Duncan, joined by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, held at a “town hall meeting” at one of Hartford’s magnet schools.
In response to a question from a high school student in attendance, Duncan taught the students an extremely valuable lesson…some politicians lie. In fact, in an attempt to “bond” with the students, Duncan lied through his teeth.
In this case, America’s Patron Saint of Standardized Testing claimed that when he was the CEO of the Chicago School System he cut the amount of standardized testing by 50%. Of course, that statement isn’t close to the truth.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone by the likes of the U.S. Secretary of Education, Governor Malloy weighed in on the issue of the overuse of standardized testing by saying, “We need a multifaceted approach which doesn’t overemphasize [testing],”
A particularly funny, if not ironic statement, considering over Malloy’s term in office we will be seeing a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in the use of standardized testing in Connecticut’s public schools.
Fellow columnist, Sarah Darer Littman, dug into the Duncan/Malloy extravaganza with her usual depth of research, humor and outrage. The product is an absolute “MUST READ” piece that appears on the CTNewsjunkie website.
An Open Letter to Connecticut Students (by Sarah Darer Littman)
Last Friday, during a town hall meeting at the Classical Magnet School in Hartford with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and assorted other luminaries of the Connecticut political firmament, one of you — Justin Vega — raised a great point with Secretary Duncan.
According to a CT Mirror report, Vega told Duncan that he felt “as if all the time and money spent on standardized testing has compromised the quality of his education.”
The responses given by both Governor Malloy and Secretary Duncan provided us all with a teachable moment in politics, critical thinking, research, statistics, and media literacy.
Malloy warned Vega that Hartford schools could potentially have a 40 percent dropout rate and said: “We have to do everything in our power to make sure that doesn’t happen. We need a multifaceted approach which doesn’t overemphasize [testing],” the CT Mirror reported.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from parenting my own kids is that they learn as much from what I do as from what I say. They don’t hesitate to point out when there is a discrepancy between my words and my actions. I ask them to do it politely. It’s important they respect my authority, but in order to maintain a healthy relationship, it’s equally as important that they question it, particularly if my words and actions don’t ring true. The same is true of democracy.
So ask yourselves — is this the same Governor Malloy who said, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test” if it means raising test scores? Note that he didn’t say he would strive for you to have a meaningful learning experience and develop critical thinking skills. He made it all about your test scores.
Despite Malloy’s assertion that we need a “multifaceted approach which doesn’t over-emphasize” testing, his policies do the opposite.
You can find this absolutely must read piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_an_open_letter_to_connecticut_students/
Democratic Party, George Jepsen, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, Stefan Pryor Sarah Darer Littman, The Democratic Party
Public education advocate and CTNewsjunkie columnist, Sarah Darer Littman, has produced another “must read” column articulating the anger and frustration that so many of us are feeling toward much of the leadership of the Democratic Party.
I pretty sure it was actually on my 18th birthday that I raced to the Old Town Hall to register as a Democrat. Less than two years later, I become, what I think, was the youngest Democratic Town Chairman in Connecticut history, beating out my former boss and mentor, Sam Gejdenson.
Today I watch a Democratic President and Democratic Governor undermine the public education system and coddle the rich, while here in Connecticut we witness the deepest cuts in history to our public colleges and universities, while slashing some of the most vital human services, such as respite care for parents of the developmentally disabled.
In recent years, time and time again, we’ve witnessed the Democratic leadership taking our party away from its core beliefs and principles.
In what is certainly an award-winning response, Sarah Darer Littman says enough is enough:
A Woman Without A Party (By Sara Darer Littman)
When my son registered to vote two years ago this month, he wanted to register unaffiliated. “Both parties are just corporate shills,” he said.
I had a hard time disagreeing with that point of view, but I talked him out of it with the same words my father told me thirty years earlier, when I was a new voter: “You should always join a party in a closed primary state so you can vote in a primary.”
My son listened to me, as I listened to Dad. So he was shocked when I told him that I’d gone to Town Hall this week and changed my registration from Democrat to Unaffliated in the final stage of my journey to disgust and disillusionment with the two-party system.
“Welcome to my world,” he said.
At 18, I was a registered Republican. At 36, I became a Democrat. And now, as a woman of a certain age, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Attorney General George Jepsen, and their BFF Arne Duncan, have persuaded me to join the fastest growing voter group in both Connecticut and the country — the Unaffiliated.
(Read her full post at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/a_woman_without_a_party/)
Sarah ends by saying, “One of the books that has most influenced me was one I read in that 10th grade honors English class, George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM. The reason I’ve become unaffiliated is because as I looked from one party to the other on education, “already it was impossible to say which was which.”
I know Sarah speaks for many of us…
Education Reform, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas, Public Consulting Group (PCG), Sarah Darer Littman, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Sarah Darer Littman, SERC, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Wendy Lecker
Fellow public school advocates and columnists, Wendy Lecker and Sara Darer Littman have written TWO MUST READ columns this week.
“School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” (Wendy Lecker) and “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?” (Sarah Darer Littman) present a stunning portrayal of the abuses that have become the hallmark of Connecticut’s education reform industry.
As the two articles explain, the ethical and legal abuses reach into the highest levels of state government.
School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law
Published in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst Media Group outlets, Wendy Lecker writes;
“When Joel Klein was chancellor of New York City’s school district, a New York legislator criticized him for engaging in activities contrary to the legislation granting mayoral control of New York’s schools, and depriving parents of a voice in how schools were run. Mr. Klein’s response was that if the legislator did not like what the chancellor was doing he could “sue me, that is what courts are for.”
As a lawyer, rather than an educator, Joel Klein revealed a troubling disregard for parental involvement; a crucial element in school success, as any educator knows. Even more disturbing was the disdain Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer, showed for the law.
Sadly, this attitude of thumbing one’s nose at the public and ignoring the law are the hallmarks of today’s education “reformers.” They have no patience for evidence that their reforms will work, for earning the public trust or even for the law. To them, the ends that they desire justify all means.
Nowhere is this “so sue me” attitude more in display than in Connecticut, where those pushing education “reform,” Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, are, like Joel Klein, lawyers who never worked in a public school. Connecticut’s public education officials have no problem violating laws to advance their agendas — even laws they wrote.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-reformers-should-at-least-4413263.php#ixzz2Ph8iofRm
“Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”
Published in CTNewsjunkie, Sara Darer Littman writes;
“One of the hallmark refrains of the corporate education reform movement is “accountability.” Strangely, their zeal for the concept does not extend to those who implement reforms. Let’s look at two key figures in Connecticut and see how accountable they have been to the state’s taxpayers.
First up, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Pryor started hiring consultants to work on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package. Like most reformers, he had preferred consultants. State bidding procedures? Why bother when he could funnel contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC) by claiming it’s a nonprofit?
That was until Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) filed a Freedom of Information request on state Education Department contracting procedures in Feb. 2012, drawing the ire of Malloy’s legal counsel, Andrew McDonald. ‘This is one of the more reckless efforts I’ve seen by Tom,’ McDonald told Hearst newspapers at the time. ‘His complaint is devoid of any evidence to support his sensational conclusions regarding the governor. If not today, then sometime soon, he’d better be prepared to put some substance behind these thin assertions.’
Fast forward a year, when the State Auditors office released an interim report on the matter.
In the report, the auditors state:
‘SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website. However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity. SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.’
On the next page but within the same section of the report, the auditors also state:
‘On at least two recent occasions, SERC entered into an agreement to employ individuals who would report directly to the commissioner of the Department of Education or a designee … In each of these cases, the commissioner instructed SERC to employ specific individuals. In each case, the employment contract (personal service agreement) was between the individual who was employed by SERC and either the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. On two other occasions, contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services … Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.’
It looks like Mr. McDonald, who is now a Supreme Court justice, has some explaining to do.”
You can read the whole column here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/who_is_holding_the_reformers_accountable/
Education Reform, Sarah Darer Littman, Teach for America Education Reform, Sarah Darer Littman, Teach for America
CTNewsjunkie columnist, Sarah Darer Littman published another “must read” piece in last weekend’s CTNewsjunkie (see link)
In it, Littman tackles the issues surrounding the efforts to enhance the teaching profession, provide opportunities for young people to serve their communities by teaching in urban and poor schools systems and the political/lobbying apparatus that is known as Teach for America.
During a recent college tour, Littman and her daughter, who wants to be a teacher, ran straight into the paradox that one path to teaching is through investing, “four, possibly five years pursuing a double major in a subject area and education” or simply graduating from college and trading a two-year commitment to Teach for America in return for a brief training program and a guaranteed job in a classroom as a teacher.
Teach for America bristles at the notion that they are anything but a force for good, but as Littman notes, the issues are far more complex than that.
She cites a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University who recently wrote in the Washington Post that TFA’s message is that college grads can “use teaching in high-poverty areas as a stepping stone to a career in business.” Littman correctly writes that such an approach is “not only disrespectful to every person who chooses to commit their life to the teaching profession, it effectively advocated using students in high-poverty areas as guinea pigs for an experiment in “resume-padding” for ambitious young people.”
And the evidence lays out the case that it is our poor, urban districts that are the petri dishes for the experiment. As Littman writes, “Back in February 2012, as part of his Education Reform Bill, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for tougher standards for teacher education programs. Yet the most troubled districts in Connecticut, the “turnaround” districts, are the ones where one finds the most TFA corps members, who show up in classrooms after five weeks of training.”
Littman goes on to examine the evidence about the effectiveness of the TFA program.
Agree or disagree about what the future of the TFA and TFA like programs should be, everyone interested in the subject should take the time to read Littman’s latest piece. Here complete Op. Ed. can be read here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_tfa_contracts_ignore_the_evidence_-_and_malloys_own_rhetoric/